More NewsAmerica Online Tweaks Marketing Posts

America Online Tweaks Marketing Posts

Amid close scrutiny of its ability to ink cross-media deals in advance of its Wednesday earnings report, AOL Time Warner makes some executive shifts.

AOL Time Warner is tinkering with the upper ranks of the marketing group in its America Online unit, in a bid to increase the company’s cross-media sales.

As a result, Robert Sherman, former president of Time Warner Cable Advertising Sales, now will serve as president of interactive marketing for the interactive division. A former executive vice president of NBC-owned and -operated radio stations, Sherman also held the top post at ad agency Della Femina, Travisano, Sherman & Olken, which serviced clients including USA Television and Fox Television.

Sherman will report to AOL Interactive Services President James de Castro — another offline veteran picked, some believe, to right the online unit’s affairs. De Castro came to AOL earlier this month after building the nation’s largest radio concern, AMFM Radio Group, with 465 stations in 105 markets, reaching more than 65 million listeners.

“The addition of Bob Sherman, with his record of success as an ad sales innovator, agency head and media executive, represents an important step in further building our interactive marketing activities,” said Bob Pittman, the incoming chief operating officer at AOL Time Warner. “With Bob joining Jimmy de Castro, we will have a seasoned team to accelerate our efforts to reach advertisers and agencies and work with them to fully capitalize on our relationship with our 34 million members.”

In a statement, Sherman said he would work to “enhance consumer relationships for major offline brands.”

Robert Friedman, who formerly held the top marketing post at America Online, will assume the position of senior vice president of corporate marketing. In that position, he’ll work on cross-platform marketing and promotions in connection with the company’s marketing and advertising councils, which represent the various divisions of AOL Time Warner.

Prior to his recent work at America Online and AOL’s interactive television unit, AOL TV, Friedman has been with Time Warner for close to 10 years, serving marketing and executive posts in a number of divisions, including New Line Cinema and New Line Television. Earlier in his career, he also served (under Pittman) in senior posts at Warner AmEx Satellite Entertainment Company, and later, at MTV Networks (which WASEC had morphed into in the early 80’s).

“We have had great success developing marketing and promotional synergies across the AOL Time Warner brands, from music to movies to TV to magazines to the Internet, but that potential has just begun to be tapped,” Friedman said.

Added Pittman, “This new position puts Bobby Friedman’s expertise in cross-brand promotion to work to take full advantage of the diverse creative resources of all the AOL Time Warner brands.

The shifts at the top of America Online’s marketing organization come amid a time of turmoil for the company and its investors. Some industry-watchers feel that based on values prior to America Online’s merger last year with Time Warner, the current stock price of the world’s largest media company effectively values its online unit at close to nothing.

That’s a radical change of heart, considering that America Online’s explosive expansion was to be the driver of growth for old media stalwart Time Warner. In many ways, however, AOL’s slowing subscriber growth and still-sluggish online ad revenues suggest that cross-company synergies have yet to be fully realized.

With the stock hovering near its five-year low, the real cross-media value of a combined America Online and Time Warner would seem to be uncertain at best to many investors — a position that most likely will be put to the test when AOL Time Warner reports its first-quarter earnings on Wednesday.

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